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Group of naked men and women

When nudity is called the Kleidungslosigkeit of people or the hair - or Federlosigkeit of animals. Psychologically, the subjective sensation associated with nudity is also referred to in humans as nudity or nakedness in the sense of defenseless. The sensation can be unpleasant ( shame ) or pleasant (feeling of freedom or liberation) depending on the upbringing or the circumstances .

The subjective feeling of nudity or nakedness can result from the lack of clothing or from the lack of hair or objects such as weapons , jewelry , wigs or make-up that are habitually worn on the body .


Pride Toronto 2019

To begin with, naked means the complete absence of clothing, jewelry and objects on the human body. But it can also just refer to the lack of clothing. Based on this, nudity describes a very wide spectrum of emotions and sensitivities and the visibility of areas of the body that are usually covered by clothing for normative, hygienic or climatic or similar reasons. So nudity is defined by both the absence and the presence of clothing, jewelry and objects. One can therefore first differentiate between complete nudity ( splinter (fiber) naked ) and partial nudity ( half-naked ). Nudity can mean a bare foot, the visibility of which is not subject to cultural taboos, or the bare bum ( pulling bare ) in public. Even a kilt wearer can be described as naked under the kilt , if he does not wear underwear, despite superficial clothing.

Naked relaxation at Herzsprung 1983 in the Angermünde district

In addition to the sheer lack of normal clothing, nudity also has semiological and psychological dimensions. Psychologically, nudity means, on the one hand, the feeling of defenselessness through the lack of protective warming clothing, and on the other hand, the realization of freedom in this regard. The lack of a weapon, a finger ring, a hat, or a culturally pre-defined status symbol, for example, can trigger the feeling of lack of protection and thus of being exposed. Semiological means that the visibility of body parts, which are usually covered by clothing, have a cultural meaning depending on the situation and place, i.e. function like a linguistic sign. It is not necessary for the meaning of the signs to be consciously reflected on. Examples of this are naked protest, which seeks attention and, in overcoming taboos, points out the importance of the issue; the speedster at a soccer match, demonstrating courage and masculinity; the women who stand beside the battlefield in early Islamic times showing their breasts to explain to their husbands that if they lose they will be as naked and at the mercy of the slaves; showing buttocks or genitals in anasyrma ; the exhibitionist who wants to hurt other people with his nakedness. The renouncement of a headscarf as a political statement, the deep cleavage, a free stomach or a miniskirt can be meant as a sexual provocation, but also as “I am so free”. Also, the free-body culture and the Naturism movement can be understood as (organized) exemption from external constraints. The meaning of the signs is artificial, so it differs from culture to culture and is also subject to a development over time. A nude portrait of an Italian president would have to be interpreted differently than the nude portrait of a Roman emperor.


The word "naked" belongs to the oldest layer of the German vocabulary. It can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European era and is therefore at least around 5500 years old. In most of the Indo-European languages, the word for “naked” also belongs to this oldest layer. However, this word has not developed according to phonetic law in many languages; it has evidently been distorted into taboos . Such belittling or concealing word variants can be traced in many languages, including German, up to the most recent times, for example through the colloquial forms “nackig” or “nackend” for “naked”.

Based on the nudity of Adam and Eve in the biblical paradise , especially naked men are colloquially referred to as “dressed in Adam's costume”. The female form "in eva costume" is also used, but less often.

Evolutionary history

When walking in bodies of water, primates benefit from and are easier to stand up because of the buoyancy. The aquatic monkey theory claims that there was an aquatic phase in hominization. The photo shows a female gorilla crossing a body of water in the Congo using a stick to check the water depth.

Hair is said to have developed in mammals around 220 million years ago. The closest genetic relatives of humans, the great apes and especially the chimpanzee, have fur. Today, humans are the only primate that is naturally naked, that is, little hair over a large area . Reliable statements on the development of nudity and the passage of time are not yet possible because hair does not form fossils. In 2004, researchers at the University of Utah identified a receptor in the human body that produces a protein that affects skin such as hair. They suspect that the protein protects the skin from sun exposure, which may have become necessary with the loss of hair. That happened 1.2 million years ago at the latest.

Various theories try to explain the evolutionary development of hairlessness in humans. An essential function of thick hair is to maintain body heat (thermoregulation). It has therefore long been assumed that early humans pursued prey over longer distances at higher temperatures and cooled their bodies more strongly in order to avoid heat stroke. This theory is part of the refuted savanna hypothesis , since at least the upright gait must have developed beforehand. The water monkey theory, on the other hand, has not yet been refuted, despite some skepticism among experts. After that, humans lived by the water for a period of time (aquatic phase), during which those characteristics could have developed that are atypical for living beings that mainly live on land and that distinguish humans from other primates: a subcutaneous fatty tissue, the rudiments webbed feet, the upright gait and generally the positioning of the extremities, which seem optimally adapted to the movement in the water. Scientists argue that usually several phenomena cannot be explained with a single theory.

The control of the fire may also have been a factor in compensating for the warmth of the missing hair, especially at night. When the genus Homo learned to tame wildfire and master fire is hardly verifiable. The earliest, relatively safe fireplace is in Gesher Benot Ya'aqov (GBY) in northern Israel . It is about 790,000 years old and could have come from hominids of the species Homo erectus or Homo ergaster . It is generally believed that Homo erectus was the first species in the genus Homo to dominate fire. He is also one of the first to be able to walk upright (habitual bipede) and to use the hunt as an essential element of the food supply. All three factors may have contributed to the loss of the hair or been part of the same development process. Another explanation for the loss of fur would be the lower susceptibility to parasites due to a lack of body hair. Chimpanzees, for example, spend about half a day just grooming. Could the hunting Homo erectus have had this time? Or has this given him an evolutionary advantage that he learned to secure with fire and clothing?

The development of clothing is also to be understood as a thermoregulatory factor, but it is probably not directly related to the loss of fur. The evolutionary biologist David Reed believes that humans must only have started wearing clothes around 170,000 years ago. The clothes louse is a further development of the human head louse. This development happened at that time. The reason for this could have been the glacial period 180,000 years ago. The development of clothing during this period could have contributed to the fact that humans then spread to the north 100,000 years ago.

Sociological examination of nudity

Many existing theories and concepts can be useful in studying nudity, in understanding the feelings and behaviors involved.

In Norbert Elias most famous work, On the Process of Civilization (2012a [1939]), he put forward theories about changes in behavioral and emotional standards in Western societies. He developed his theory on the basis of changes in behavior that he observed in numerous books of decency - and to a lesser extent in other literary and works catalogs of art - going back to the Middle Ages. Elias recognized changes in behavior over the timeline of several centuries, changes in the standards of what he calls "outward physical decency," including those relating to manners in the bedroom, at the table, and issues such as defecating, urinating, spitting, or blowing one's nose. Elias' theory of the process of civilization encompasses the history of human emotions, particularly those of shame and embarrassment. It is amazing how he transforms the most mundane and mundane elements of everyday human life, often either rejected or taken for granted by sociologists and historians, into a more universal theory of the “interconnectedness” behind how societies work. The focus of Elias' theorizing was on questions of “external physical decency”. He chose to study them because they were things that had to be dealt with by all people at any time and place, and every known society has rules and taboos for them.

Elias' report of changes in behavior in dressing and undressing in the bedroom and in the practice of bathing clearly shows the historical process of increasing distance between an individual and his body, which is generally and naturally believed to be a matter of common sense, to cover one's body and not appear naked in front of strangers. He opposes the assumption that the shame and aversion associated with naked bodies is a "natural" response and that only "savages" tend to be indifferent to it. The central question Elias asked about nudity was: how did we come to believe that nudity was "unnatural" and that the feelings of embarrassment and shame it brought about made it "natural" and "normal"?

Cultural history

European cultures

Greek antiquity

Ancient Greek statue in the Museo Nazionale Romano
A daughter of Niobe is hit by an arrow from Artemis , the dying woman's robe slips and she becomes naked.

In ancient Athens , (semi) public nudity was reserved for men and was only considered offensive to women. The Cynics taught the needlessness with the simultaneous rejection of material goods. Prejudices and shame were discarded in favor of things that were perceived as natural, such as nudity. The gymnasium as a place for physical exercise proves through its name alone ( gymnós = naked) that nudity was not common in ancient Greece , but was limited to specially designated social spaces, just like Greek art .

In ancient Greece, nudity had a special place in sport . It was believed that gymnastics had the training of the body for its sole purpose, and there were also competitions at the festivals of the gods to honor them. The aim here was to show how far one had come in all the arts that were suitable for a free man. As early as 720 BC At the Olympic Games, the loincloth , with which the fighters were probably dressed up to then, was abolished in all disciplines except horse racing . (see Pythian and Isthmic Games )

The reason for the nudity in the stadium is not certain. One theory says that one of the runners lost his apron during the run and won. This made the athletes believe they could go faster without clothes. Another suggestion is that a runner is said to have lost the loincloth and tripped over it. To be on the safe side, nudity was ordered. As a third possibility, a demand from Sparta is accepted. The city-state's athletes were the first to play nude sports and may have enforced their custom at the Olympics. In Sparta, as the only one of the Greek states, the girls also played sports, not with the men, but also naked.


Statue of the Graecophile Emperor Antoninus Pius in a Greek-heroic pose, which is underlined by a Corinthian helmet - an antique for centuries at that time.
Roman women in bikini
Hercules on the back of an Antoninianus of the Emperor Gordian III
Half-naked Venus on the denarius of Titus

After the conquest of Greece in 146 BC. The Romans saw no reason to forbid nudity at the Olympic Games. However, as Plutarch reported, exposing the body was contrary to ancient Roman customs . And the writer Quintus Ennius wrote with a view to the Hellenes that it was a shame at the beginning to show oneself naked in public. The Roman criticism of the naked appearance of the Greek competitors was also expressed in the fact that the Romans competed with sportswear. Cicero saw in the nakedness of the Hellenes - especially in connection with the boyfriend cultivated there - a violation of the highest virtues. In his first book of De officiis , he also explains that the Roman way of life forbade nude bathing between father and son and between father-in-law and son. As part of the pre-military upbringing of the sons initiated by the fathers, nude swimming in the Tiber and nude training in the sports facilities were quite common. The visit to the public thermal baths took place separately from the sexes, with the men again bathing naked while the women wore a bikini , as depicted on a mosaic in the late antique Villa Romana del Casale in Sicily . Since there was obviously swimwear for men, nude bathing was not mandatory.

Some emperors tried to counteract the plurality of views that was already evident in Roman society, which could also make fun of norms and values ​​and flaunt double standards. While on the one hand a number of Greek customs were viewed as objectionable, on the other hand educated Romans admired philosophy and knowledge from Greece. The setting up of completely naked sculptures, however, remained very rare in the early days of the Principate . It was not until the 2nd century that the traditional Greek-artistic conventions in Roman non-sacred sculptures gained in importance. This is exemplified by a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of the emperor Septimius Severus (reigned 193 to 211 AD), which is exhibited today in the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia. During this time, certain Graecophile emperors such as Antoninus Pius (ruled 138 to 161 AD) and wealthy private individuals were depicted in heroic nudity. The half-naked image type known from female and male representations on coin images, which showed a covered pubic, was used, like completely naked representations, on the reverse of Roman coins at certain times and occasions from the heyday of the republic to the 3rd century AD. In particular, gods and demigods could be represented in this way. On a denarius of Septimius Severus, the lapel shows the demigod Hercules with a phallus. Nudity thus became a permissible element of official statecraft during certain periods of Roman history.

However, the body-hugging representation of individuals lost its importance in the 3rd century and is no longer comprehensible in Roman art of the 4th century - long before Christianity was finally recognized as the state religion under Emperor Theodosius I (379–395). The representation of the naked body was in too strong a contrast to the Roman feeling to have ever enjoyed excessive popularity, especially since the display of nudity also served as a political instrument of humiliation. The statue of a Roman statesman clad in the all-covering toga therefore differs significantly from corresponding statues of the Greeks.

Christianity, which is based on Jewish teachings, was able to establish itself quickly in the Roman Empire, partly because of the shame of nudity, which is also known in Judaism. For many residents, as well as the Roman tradition, such an attitude was therefore nothing new. Real change was only brought about by the radicalism with which a positive relationship to nudity was often fought by church leaders and dignitaries.

Teutons, Celts

Roman writers have handed down that the Germanic peoples hardened themselves by taking baths in rivers and lakes and that small children sometimes grew up naked. The Celtic warriors have been handed down through writers and pictures that they fought naked against the Romans.

Germany and Central Europe

middle Ages
Nudity in a 16th century bathhouse

Even within Western society, different epochs differed significantly in their understanding of norms compared to the naked body. Until the late Middle Ages, nudity in public was not particularly taboo:

"The surprising result is that the sight of complete nakedness was the everyday rule until the 16th century."

- Wilhelm Rudeck

It was common to sleep naked and share the (only) bed with the whole household. The bathing trade and public prostitution in baths was generally accepted.

Early modern age

With the beginning of the early modern era - except in art - there was an increasing banishment of naked bodies from public space, whereby a strong distinction must be made here between the classes and social classes. The simple population swam and bathed naked in lakes and rivers in many European countries well into the 19th century, while for the bourgeoisie and the nobility, personal hygiene mostly belonged to the private sector. In Scandinavia, nude bathing and saunas have remained common to this day. In the 19th century, the common people began to give up casual nude bathing in many places, because social expectations increased to dress in all public situations. For the first time, swimwear for young people and adults became generally accepted. At that time, it covered almost the entire body of both sexes and was rather uncomfortable when wet because of the high cotton content. As a result, the feeling of shame that was associated with one's own body grew. A high point of this development was shown in the bourgeois prudery of the Victorian era and Wilhelminism , which had an impact well into the 20th century and reached a new high point, especially in the reconstruction phase after the Second World War . The nude bathing of young children and soldiers was exempt from all of this and is still common in many places today.

“The individual sense of shame is actually a characteristic of the bourgeoisie . The citizen has no title of nobility . He wears his dignity in his clothing, which is the outward sign of his wealth. To see the king naked does not detract from his aristocratic parentage. For the citizen, on the other hand, it is humiliation to see him naked. "

- Jean-Claude Bologne , French historian

Since the Middle Ages, nudity and shamelessness had been declared a “sin” by the church; lust was also condemned as "sinful". With the advent of the absolutist state apparatus, the Christian churches were able to enforce their moral standards. In 1884, for example, it was recommended to sprinkle sawdust on the bath water so that one would not see one's own shame in the bath. The pathologization of masturbation and serious damage to health also occurred during this period . Towards the end of the 19th century an attempt was made, with sometimes draconian punishments, to persuade women to wear underpants under their skirts , which were previously unusual .

Édouard Manet's Olympia caused a scandal

This did not affect artistic representations of naked people, provided that they could be clearly identified as such. A naked mermaid was no more offensive than Édouard Manet's breakfast in the country . However, his Olympics sparked indignation.

Nude photography, ca.1905

It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that this trend was reduced or even reversed. It started with nudes of naked or almost naked women, which were printed and sold in large numbers as postcards. However, these had to be sold "under the counter" because of general prudish and censorship measures . Likewise erotic stories like the novel Josefine Mutzenbacher . The representation of naked men did not become common until much later.

European view of foreign cultures
Völkerschau in Paris, 1892

As a strong contrast to the increasing modesty among the European bourgeoisie, so-called Völkerschauen became popular. People from the colonies, especially those with a strange skin color or appearance, were put on display like a zoo. Although they were not completely naked, they were still much lighter in clothing than Europeans - and especially European women - were allowed to do at the time. “In the name of science” one could stare at such strangers carefree and measure them in detail. Even the otherwise strictly censored post had nothing against "shellless savages".

In Japan , which remained very closed until 1854, the relationship to nudity was much more open than in Victorian Europe, in particular no one was offended by the fact that men and women bathed naked together in the bathhouses. This initially caused astonishment in Europe, but was seen by the opposition to prudery as a sign that nudity - contrary to the claims of conservative Christian circles in particular - should be clearly distinguished from sensual and sexual and not necessarily always appear together. Historically, however, the opposite happened at first: Corresponding bans were introduced in Japan, ostensibly in order not to make Japan look ridiculous among foreigners.


The arisen from the late 19th century nudism (FKK) concerned far more than the reintroduction of nude bathing. The nudist (at first it was also called “nudist culture”, the idea of “naturism” only came up later) rather as part of the so-called life reform aimed at breaking out of unsanitary and partially unhealthy urban living conditions that had arisen through industrialization . They met in nature and were naked together. The Ruhr area (the first nudist association was founded in Essen in 1898 ) and Berlin were among their regional starting points . Associations and baths were founded in which people - ideally without social differences - were together, on the terms of each other and tried to eat healthily. Organized nudist and naturism life partly included the rigid ban on tobacco , alcohol and erection until the 1970s . The aim was not enjoyment and only partially relaxation , but above all more health . Often the nudity was ideologically inflated, for example in the sense of utopian hopes for social liberation. The discipline of many nudist clubs was extremely strict. Parts of the German nudist movement even had a right-wing political orientation under the motto “naked and German” . The Berlin club stood u. a. under the patronage of the Chief of Staff Helmuth Johannes Ludwig von Moltke , who wanted to combine natural selection aspects with public nudity , since this would reduce the likelihood of marriages with people suffering from syphilis . Another aspect here was the latent anti-Semitism , since the circumcision is accordingly noticeable naked.

Other nudist clubs, especially those that emerged in the working class, tended to the left . The ideal of equality played a role here because nudity allegedly eliminates social differences. In the 1960s, nudity was seen in parts of the 1968 movement as a symbol of liberation from the shackles of the convention and thus established itself as a form of protest. What was protested against in detail is often no longer entirely clear from today's perspective. There were still official nude beaches on the North Sea, new ones were built on the Baltic Sea. In any case, in the West, ideology came clearly from the left, especially since nudity was often associated with outspoken hedonism and sexual libertinism ( hippie movement, Woodstock ). The nudist culture was far more widespread in the GDR than in the West.

Physical training and education
Naked physical exercise at the end of the 19th century stood in contrast to the bourgeois reticence of that time. To this day, nudity in the form of nudism is considered acceptable in parts of the western world

Around the same time as the first nudist movements appeared, the American doctor Bess Mensendieck began to give gymnastics lessons “exclusively for women” in Germany in the period before the First World War . She wanted to help women to bring their bodies, which had been disfigured by labor, the consequences of pregnancy, wrong clothing and wrong diet, back into balance. In her gymnastics schools, like many of her emerging competitors, she let women train naked, because that way they were free from the restrictive clothes of that time. Even in gymnastics clubs, as long as women had access at all, fashion was considered unsuitable.

The books that Mensendieck wrote became great successes. The exercises shown in it are all presented naked, because this is the only way to really recognize any deficiencies in the exercises. During the exercises, the girls were usually among themselves. The pictures called the morals on the scene. In some cases this led to the fact that the gymnastic nude schools (the Greek word gymnós [γυμνός] means naked) were banned, although there was no real evidence that the common nudity would cause moral harm to the trainees. In the interwar period, Hans Surén let officers do naked gymnastics and exercise during training. Although he later idealized his training in a völkisch fashion, he came into conflict with the National Socialists .

Adolf Koch - a teacher in the interwar period - went a step further than Mensendieck and had all his students practice gymnastics together in the nude. Although all of the children involved attended Koch's school with the consent of their parents, he was scandalized by right-wing politicians and he lost his teaching post. Nevertheless, he continued on his own and was able to unite the political left behind him. In many German cities, teachers' seminars based on Koch's model were then sent , but they were closed again in 1933.

In the mood of the 1968 movement , which was influenced by the political left, some educators again began to openly include nudity in their curriculum. To this day, sex education classes in schools are highly controversial. On the one hand, the parents do not want to leave this “sensitive” topic to outsiders, on the other hand, some are overwhelmed themselves because they have never had sex education lessons and their education came through the streets or today the Internet. The teaching aids used to explain human biology were also the starting point and goal of conservative criticism. So also the German sex education atlas . A teaching aid called Sexbox in Switzerland triggered the collection of signatures for the Federal People's Initiative “Protection against sexualization in kindergarten and primary school” . The sex box contained materials to aid in the preparation and delivery of sex education classes. The main criticisms of this sex box were a wooden penis and a plush vagina.

In the 21st century, a more cautious attitude towards public nudity developed. In connection with data protection and the right to one's own picture , it was recognized that pictures are uploaded and shared in social networks against one's own will . While it was completely normal in the 20th century for kindergarten and elementary school children to play naked, some educators, teachers and parents believe they can hardly be held responsible for this today. The risk is too great that strangers will photograph the children and post the pictures on the Internet. Male educators and carers in particular are generally mistrusted in sexual relationships, which can make professional practice extremely difficult. Since the GDPR came into force at the end of May 2018, normal pictures from day-care centers and schools can only be taken with the written consent of all parents, otherwise there is a risk of lawsuits and fines for breach of data protection.


With the numerous appearance of sauna facilities in Central Europe since the 1970s, nude bathing has become socially acceptable again there. Based on the Finnish sauna culture, which was brought back with the return of German soldiers from the north at the end of the Continuation War , sauna facilities in Central and Northeastern Europe are usually visited naked. A gender segregation in public facilities is possible depending on the context, but rarely in German-speaking countries. In contrast, in the countries of Western and Southern Europe, swimwear is usually used in public saunas.

Some public saunas in Central Europe have a "textile sauna". Swimwear is required or permitted here. In textile-free saunas, it is also sometimes required to cover up sexual characteristics with a towel or bathrobe outside the sauna cabins and pools.

Other aspects

In the women's movement , which opposes male dominance in patriarchal societies, the nudity of women was rated partly as exemplary (as an expression of self-confidence and self-determination) and partly as reprehensible (as a precursor to pornography).

Non-European cultures

Egyptian antiquity

Wall painting from a tomb in Thebes (around 1400 BC): musicians and dancers at a celebration in ancient Egypt.
Reproduction of a wall painting from the Tomb of Tis. Correct (left) and manipulated (right) reproduction from the history of ancient Egypt

Egyptian fashion has not changed much for a long time. People wore a minimum of clothing. Men usually went bare-chested, barefoot and only wore a tunic around their waist. Women wore loosely hanging cloth. Female entertainers, on the other hand, appeared naked. Children remained naked until puberty, around the age of 12. This open clothing tradition was viewed as humiliating by other cultures. For example, the Hebrew Bible states:

"So the king of Assyria will drive all captured Egypt and expelled Moorish lands, both young and old, naked and barefoot, in shameful nakedness, to shame Egypt."

- Isaiah 20, verse 4

The depiction of nudity in connection with explicit sexuality is not found all that often, but can be proven, for example, in the erotic-satirical papyrus of Turin . Here the penises appear excessively large. Also Min , the Egyptian god of fertility, is often depicted with a powerful, erect penis.

The openness of the Egyptians did not suit some modern Europeans. In Meyer's History of Ancient Egypt from 1887, for example, a picture from the tomb of Ti appeared falsified in order to hide the genitals shown from the reader of the book (see picture). The figure was also adopted in this form in later publications.

Indian antiquity

Dancer statuette from Mohenjo-Daro

A bronze statuette that was found in Mohenjo-Daro , the largest known city of the Indus culture , and dates back to around 2,500 BC. Is dated, shows a naked dancer with bracelets and necklace. According to Charles Fabri, Indian depictions of native women until around the 12th century mostly show bare breasts and only in a few cases have a veil-like, translucent cloth over them.


Wisdom Impression Sentiment (1898): Nude painting by the Japanese painter Kuroda Seiki
Kitagawa Utamaro, Vorspiel der Lust (1799)
The depiction of concrete sexuality ( Shunga ), even by recognized artists, was not taboo in Japan .

The traditional hot Japanese bath ( Ofuro ) was always taken naked by whole families together. European missionaries were amazed at the apparent lack of shame. In public baths, in which people bathe in the nude, the separation of the sexes was only introduced after the Second World War under pressure from the USA. This separation sometimes only consists of a barely knee-high fence, which is more of a marking. In many natural thermal springs (onsen) people have bathed together since time immemorial and to this day.

The sumo wrestling is played almost naked . The age-old sport, which dates back to the 7th century, is traditionally practiced for the joy of the gods - a remarkable analogy to the Greek Olympic Games. Nudity in the bathroom and in sumo moves within precisely defined social limits. Otherwise Japan seems rather prudish from a European perspective . Nudity on the beach is unusual and hardly imaginable, in many movies nude scenes are still retouched or completely cut. Even recordings of bedrooms have been removed from films to prevent sexual associations.

However, it can be doubted that a nudity taboo is deeply ingrained in society. The separation of state and religion was so advanced even before the spread of pornography in the country that a public “morality” was not dictated by religions, but behavior was based on a general consensus. Japanese pornography flourished during the Edo period (1603 to 1868). Current taboos can be traced back to the westernization and modernization of the country in the Meiji period (since 1868). The government feared that Japan would be viewed by the West as backward due to its sexual openness. It was only through efforts to circumvent these old censorship laws, develop means of expression and find market niches that pornographic genres such as bukkake developed , in which no actual sexual intercourse is shown, as many men ejaculate on a woman's face.

Australia, Oceania, Africa, the Caribbean, South America

Walther Dobbertin , Nude study of a girl in the former German East Africa (between 1906 and 1918)

In many traditional cultures of these rooms, people lived undressed for our understanding until modern times. For example the Australian Aborigines , residents of New Guinea and several peoples of the Amazon region as well as in central and southern Africa . In some of these cultures this tradition has survived to this day and has hardly changed. For example, women wear a thin cord around their hips and men wear a penis sheath , which is also worn around their hips with a cord, but without it they also feel naked.

On Samoa and other islands of Oceania the people were largely undressed until they took over not only the new faith but also the customs of the missionaries in the course of proselytizing. It has remained so to this day, so that tourists are generally not allowed to lie topless on the beach.


Traditionally, nudity has little place in Chinese culture. In Hong Kong at the beginning of 2005, a hitherto purely private nudist club fought against considerable resistance for the right to use a section of the beach. Despite the existing acceptance of nudity in many Asian cultures, it would be the second (Thailand) naturist club on the entire continent (except on the extreme periphery of Asia in Russia and Israel).

Nudity and religion

Tanakh and Judaism

Depiction of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise and the previous fall, as a result of which they became aware of their nakedness, among other things. Michelangelo's ceiling painting in the Sistine Chapel , 1508–1512

In the biblical creation story , nudity is a symbol of innocence and unconsciousness. It was only after Adam and Eve had eaten a forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (the Christian Fall ) that they became aware of their nakedness and felt ashamed. Shame is therefore viewed theologically as a result of this knowledge.

The related, but not identical, sensations of genital shame on the one hand and shame as a result of a rule violation and separation from God on the other hand are often equated for the sake of simplicity. In the further course, nudity in the Tanach (Old Testament) remains a sign of poverty and sometimes of shame, for example with the deportation of naked prisoners of war. However, it is not considered culpable and is also understood as a prophetic sign and rated positively. In later, Orthodox Judaism, however, nudity is frowned upon.


Poor Lazarus, naked, in front of the rich man's door, Luke 16, Codex Aureus Epternacensis (or)

In the Christian tradition , an ambivalent attitude towards nudity predominates, at least a consistent emphasis on (not only understood physically) modesty and, even more, on chastity , i.e. the control of the libido . The latter was always connected with the Christian prohibition of all forms of premarital and extramarital sexual practice, which they called fornication .

In the New Testament , nudity itself was initially as little condemned as in the Old Testament . It was not regarded as a sin , but as a social problem, namely as a visible mark of poverty , shame and ugliness (compare Jn 21.7  EU ). The New Testament commandment to clothe the naked stood alongside the demand for care for the hungry, thirsty, prisoners and the sick (compare Mt 25 : 34-40  EU ).

In Christian history there have been very different ways of dealing with nudity. When visiting places of worship, it is traditionally required to cover the shoulders and for women the thighs to the knees, and for men to wear long trousers. Based on a requirement of the Apostle Paul, a headscarf or veil for women was and is sometimes advocated or required. The ban on nudity at the Olympic Games (and these Games in general because of their pagan origin) in AD 393 was a Christian initiative. On the other hand, at almost all times in Christian countries people bathed naked in the waters.

With Epiphanius von Salamis , the ecclesiastical condemnation of nudity prevailed in the 4th century. Mystical communitarian Christian groups who practiced holy nudity or who were said to be believed, such as the Adamites or the brothers and sisters of the free spirit of the Middle Ages, were severely persecuted as heretics .

Michelangelo: Last Judgment

The public nudity of Francis of Assisi , intended and understood by his viewers as a provocatively harsh rejection of any kind of materialism and consumerism , was not condemned by the church in retrospect, but recognized as an indication of his holiness. It has been associated with the nudity of the prophets. Also, nudity is not uncommon, in Christian art this both in the representation of Adam and Eve about the angels up to certain biblical figures and saints . One of the most famous examples of this is the altar painting in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican .

The widespread depictions of St. Sebastian , whose wound-strewn figure appears exposed to the viewer's sadism and voyeurism, developed into study objects of the naked male body in particular . The artistic representation of female nudity in the West also began with the inclusion of biblical motifs such as Bathsheba and Susanna in the bath .

It is found in the written religious statements in the 20th century no direct prohibition of nudity, but statements like "The nudity is not a symptom of a new naturalness, but a diseased civilization." And in Jone to disreputable body parts terms with clear warnings of fornication . The common bath tub for younger siblings in swimwear was also justified. In the specialist literature further consequences of the hostile church sexual morality have been presented.

Pope John Paul II presented his view of nudity and shame by referring to Gen 1:31: "God saw that everything he had done was very good," he says in his Wednesday catechesis of April 2. January 1980 from:

"Nudity denotes the original good of divine vision, it means all the simplicity and fullness of that look through which the pure value of man as man and woman is revealed, the pure value of the body and sexuality."

Karol Wojtyła had already stated in his book "Love and Responsibility" in 1960:

“Sexual modesty cannot simply be equated with the use of clothing, nor shamelessness with the lack of clothing and total or partial nakedness of the body. (P. 258)

Nudity as such is not to be equated with the shamelessness of the body. Insolence is only present when nudity plays a negative role in the person's worth, when its aim is to arouse the desire of the flesh, as a result of which the person is placed in the position of an object of use. (P. 280)

The human body is not shameless in itself, nor are sensual responses and human sensuality in general for the same reasons. Shamelessness (like shame and shame) is a function of a person's inner being and especially of the will, which all too easily accepts the sensual response and another person - because of the person's 'body and sex' - to the role of one Object of use reduced. (P. 281) "

The moral theologian Rupert M. Scheule from Fulda suggests a new sexual ethic from the perspective of being naked means being human, and being human means being naked .


Jean-Léon Gérôme : Dance of the Alme (1863)
Western representations of oriental dances are more likely to be transfigured wishes.

Nudity is extremely restricted in Islam. There are a number of rules about proper clothing.

The area of ​​the body that should not be seen in public, i.e. the defined pubic area, is called aura ( Arabic عورة). The rules for this are set out in the hadith collections, which in their entirety make up the Sunnah , one of the most important legal references in Islam. In the Sunni tradition, the male aura extends from the navel to the knees. There are different classifications of the aura for women. Traditionally, the woman's aura is related to her entire body. There is disagreement as to whether this also applies to the face, hands and feet. For slaves next to it, the man's aura applied.

In public, many Muslim women wear the hijab and long clothes that cover most of their head and body, with only their hands and face being allowed to be seen. It is less strict in front of one's own family, such as parents, children or siblings. Only the area between the chest and thighs must remain covered there.

The Sharia , which is valid in some Islamic countries , has even stricter laws. However, the degree of coverage also varies with the interpretation of Sharia law and local customs. In Turkey the traditional form of the hijab is the Çarşaf , in Iran and among the Iraqi Shiites the chador . In Arab countries , the jilbab is combined with a face veil called a niqab . In Pakistan and India will Parda worn.

The representation of nudity is also limited as there are rules for general avoidance of images in Islamic art . These are also in this form in the Hadith texts and not in the Koran. This results in a strong tendency towards non-figurative, ornamental decor in Islamic art. Since there is no clear boundary between sacred and profane art, this avoidance requirement is not limited to religious places.

The fact that there is a great deal of tension today with nudity in Islamic societies can be observed in some cases. In early 2006, for example, an Egyptian legal scholar declared that nudity during sex invalidated any marriage, which resulted in a wide public debate. However, neither the Koran nor the traditions of the Prophet regulate whether or how the genitals should be covered during sex.

In 2010, Muslims protested in the US that body scanners at airports violated Islamic law. The Fiqh Council of North America also issued a fatwa on this . It said: “Islam emphasizes restraint (haya) and its importance for faith. The Koran tells the believers, both men and women, that they should cover their genders. ”In the USA, the possibility was given to be scanned.

At the end of 2011, an Egyptian art student posted photos showing her naked on the Internet. Her photographs, with which she protested against the unequal treatment of women, sparked widespread protest in the country.

Salman Rushdie wrote in an essay from 2005 on the subversive character of nudity in Islam, in which he describes that the suppression of pornography turns it into an icon of freedom.

The image of the oriental dance shows an open approach to nudity and physicality. The history of oriental dance shows, however, that this is basically an exotic European genre that did not affect the Orient until the 20th century. It was heavily inspired by stories like Salome and her death-bringing dance. Historical, Egyptian and Babylonian elements also influenced this dance genre.

In terms of cultural history, the treatment of nudity in Islam can be traced back to the origins of the Koran. While the Jews and Christians also told the story of Adam and Eve as the story in which the first people became aware of their nakedness, the Koran tells a very similar story. Eve is not mentioned by name and its origin is not explained, but the eating of the forbidden fruit and the recognition of nudity. The nudity has a negative connotation. The word for shame in the Koran is saw'a , which is derived from sā'a and means "to be bad".

“Then Satan whispered to them, so that he could reveal to them what was hidden from them about their pubic parts, and said: 'Your Lord has forbidden you to use this tree only so that you do not become angels or belong to the Eternal Living!'
So he deceived her with deception. When they had tasted the tree, their pubic parts became visible to them, and they quickly began to cover themselves with the leaves of the janna. And their Lord called them: 'Did I not forbid you to use this tree and say that Satan is certainly a resolute enemy for you ?!' "

- Sura 7 , verses 20, 22

Nudity was non-existent in the Islamic concept of paradise. With the fall of man, the paradisiacal clothing fell off. This consisted of the material of the fingernails. Only a remnant was left on the fingers so that the person could remember the original state.

Stories from early Islamic times are known when women opened their veils in battles and showed their breasts to men. They did not want to cause excitement, but to show the men what consequences a defeat would have, i.e. equality with the female slaves with all the consequences. The veiling as a demarcation from the slave was already emphasized in the Koran. In pre-Islamic times there was no need to cover up.

"Prophet! Say to your wives to your daughters and the women of the Moomin that they by their jilbab draw about themselves. This is more because they are recognized and then not harassed. And ALLAH is always forgiving, gracious. "

- Sura 33 , verse 59

Commentators largely determined the interpretation of the Koran. Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780 to 855), one of the founders of the four Sunni schools of law, recognized the aura of women in the soles of the feet and fingernails. Traditionally, the woman's body is considered omnisexual :

“The primary genitalia that determines the woman, her vagina, is transferred to the whole body - the woman is literally one with her. For the male observer, every part of her body is filled with sexual stimuli and thus, when it is revealed and made visible, represents a danger not only for the man, but also for society and order as such. "

- Curing: Nudity and Shame in the Islamic Middle Ages, p. 152

To this day, some groups and even governments justify the exclusion of women from political discourse with the female voice as an alleged part of their aura, which would have to be covered in public.


In Jainism there have been monks called Digambaras since the earliest times who live naked or almost naked among the clothed. The word means "the air-clad".

The sadhus (Hindu ascetics) also live socially accepted and highly respected naked among the clothed. Today their number is estimated at several hundred thousand.


Lucas Cranach the Elder : Venus (1532)
Cranach usually portrayed Venus in the role of mother with her son Amor. Here she is alone, in intimate togetherness with the viewer. The veil shamefully covers her sex without covering it.

Many people experience embarrassment , shame, or sexual stimulation at the sight of nudity . There are also different thresholds here. The stimulation or shame occurs less or not at all in an environment in which people generally do not wear much clothing. Conversely, in very shameful cultures, even less nakedness, such as the poor, is enough to evoke such feelings.

Nudity is widespread and valued differently in different cultures. In all known societies, at least partial covering of the body is part of the cultural norm. The understanding of this standard is, however, subject to considerable fluctuations in some cases.

Often associated with nudity is the feeling of physical shame, which mostly relates to primary or secondary gender characteristics and which has different threshold values ​​depending on culture, epoch, social situation and age . There are indigenous peoples like the Yanomami , for whom a cord in their lumbar region is enough to feel covered , but who feel naked without this cord.

The other extreme is the use of the burqa or niqab , a form of full-body veiling by women in Islam. Due to the cultural tradition, a kind of competition to avoid nudity has arisen here. The aim was to avoid instinctual feelings and to follow religious rules as strictly as possible. In extreme cases, even the sight of a woman's face or hair can be perceived as nudity by the viewer or by the person being seen.

Even within the western world , the shame threshold can vary. For example, Americans even cover themselves with a gown during medical examinations, while many Scandinavians, for example, under certain circumstances (in a public sauna or on the beach) perceive complete nudity as unproblematic.

The emergence of new mass media such as private television in Germany in the 1980s and later the Internet have significantly increased the availability of depictions of naked people. This has changed little in the social evaluation of nudity; rather, it is about new distribution channels for pornography , i.e. commercially exploited and mostly sexualized nudity based on the principle of “ sex sells ” (freely: “sex sells (itself) well”).

The social acceptance of nudity can be read from the spread of nude bathing in nature or in saunas and bathing facilities. The overall greater acceptance of nudity has probably contributed to the fact that the importance of associations for the cultivation of nudity is declining.

In the western world, both the Catholic countries of southern Europe and the English-speaking, puritanical countries are characterized by a more prudish and more restrictive attitude towards nudity. In Central Europe and Scandinavia there is a higher level of public acceptance of nudity. During the Super Bowl 2004, the singer Janet Jackson caused a scandal in the USA when her dress slipped during a performance at halftime and her left breast became visible for a few seconds. The event preoccupied the US media and judiciary for months and went down in media history as the Nipplegate scandal. In 2008, an advertising poster for the Royal Academy of Arts in London caused a stir because it featured a painting of a naked woman, the Venus by Lukas Cranach from the 16th century. The campaign led to protests by Muslim immigrants and a boycott of London's transport companies. In the same year, a German children's book by Rotraut Susanne Berner made headlines, which was not allowed to come onto the market in the USA. The reason was the drawing of a small child's penis, a few millimeters in size.

Public nudity is generally not permitted in a Muslim environment. Quite a few Muslim families forbid their daughters from taking part in mixed-gender swimming lessons at school because Islam does not allow naked skin to be exposed in front of strange males. In Germany, the Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG) ruled in 2013 in the burkini ruling that Muslim schoolgirls can not regularly request exemption from co-educational swimming lessons if they have the option of wearing a so-called burkini .


Michelangelo: David (in the Galleria dell 'Accademia , Florence), between 1501 and 1504
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres: La source ( The source ) (1820-1856)

The naked human body is a classic subject in the visual arts , especially drawing , painting, and sculpture . Such a work has been called an act since the 19th century .

Stone age idols already reveal nudity, for example the Venus von Willendorf . The art of the Renaissance took up the idealized nudity of ancient Greece , for example Michelangelo , who also depicted the saints or the crucified or risen Christ naked. Such pictures, which showed genitals , were painted over afterwards, which was often only discovered more recently through X-ray photography . In some cases, such paintings were restored to their original state. These areas were also chopped off in many sculptures depicting a naked penis, so that these works of art were irreparably damaged.

A newer form of artistic nudity is nude photography , which has developed into its own art form and which is exhibited in renowned museums or presented in elaborately designed illustrated books or calendars. In the early years of photography, the extremely long exposure times, usually between 10 and 30 minutes, made taking photographs of people difficult, if not impossible. It was only with the development of more light-sensitive plates and improved lenses that portraits in general and nudes in particular became possible. In recent times, the boundaries between nude photography and performance have become blurred, for example in the works of the American Spencer Tunick , who has been taking pictures of large crowds naked in public since the early 2000s and stages them as part of the landscape.

Salome from a theatrical performance, ca.1910

In other arts, too, nudity is a frequently used means of expression in theater , film , action art and literature (see nudity (motif) ). In the 20th century, authors also prescribed the appearance of naked characters in their plays, for example Ödön von Horváth in Stories from the Vienna Woods . Salome in Richard Strauss ' opera of the same name stands naked on stage in many productions at the end of her famous dance of the seven veils.

Nudity also has a long tradition in Parisian revue theaters, where it is used to celebrate the beauty of the body as a means of staging. Examples are the revues of the world-famous cabarets Lido and Moulin Rouge . The London “Windmill Theater” was also known in the 1930s for its Living Pictures , where naked women recreated motifs from art history and the rigid posture circumvented the strict censorship. In the 1970s, the revue Oh! Calcutta! , in which the actors appear naked in most scenes, for a short time the longest-running Broadway show.

Nudity was rarely seen in previous films and even caused scandals. In the movie Promises! Promises! Born in 1963, Jayne Mansfield became the first known American actress to appear nude on camera in three scenes. Ever since the New York State Supreme Court ruled in 1956 whether the portrayal of nudity in film constitutes profanity per se, nudity has been in force as long as it is depicted without frivolity, indecency or sexual suggestion not to be assessed as obscene or offensive in terms of the censorship regulations. The judgment was more or less confirmed in June 1957 by the decision of the United States Supreme Court "Roth vs. United States", as the actual circumstances of the presentation in the respective individual case would decide whether something should be considered obscene. In the period that followed, the so-called nudies developed their own genre. The aim of the producers was to showcase a lot of naked, preferably female, skin, mostly by playing the plot of the film among nudists or by filmed the actresses bathing, showering or swimming extensively. The main hallmark was that none of these scenes was ever associated with sexual acts or any suggestion. Russ Meyer began his career as a director with numerous nudies. It would be 1962 before an established female star agreed to act naked in front of the camera. Marilyn Monroe did some nude scenes in Something's Got to Give , which she showed bathing in a swimming pool. However, the film was never finished and so Jayne Mansfield acted a year later as the first star naked.

As part of the 1968 movement , a change also set in in film, which was reflected in Germany in the educational films by Oswalt Kolle , the report films or in the comedy genre in the Lederhosen films . Internationally, the Israeli teenage comedy series Eis am Stiel should be mentioned, which from the late 1970s to well into the 1980s also repeatedly showed scantily clad or completely naked actors in a total of eight films, which in many countries only did so was seen censored. At the time, however, nudity often only referred to female nudity, while the male penis was rarely seen. In 1980, the then unknown actor Christopher Atkins was seen completely naked in the film The Blue Lagoon . Since then, nudity has largely established itself as a stylistic device in film (both in the comedy genre and in films with a more serious theme) and today hardly any calls for censorship. For example, the comedy American Pie: The Class Reunion from 2012, in which the penis of the lead actor Jason Biggs can be seen and the Oscar-winning drama The Reader from 2008, in which both the breasts of the lead actress Kate Winslet and the penis of the main actor David Kross can be seen, both in Germany with an FSK approval from 12 years.

Public nudity

Naturism and Tourism

Nudist beach in Wismar
Members of the Young Naturists and Nudists America in Florida , an association that has
since been dissolved

Since the 1930s at the latest, nude bathing together on some North and Baltic Sea beaches ( Sylt , Mecklenburg ; in Berlin at that time sometimes called “Swedish bathing”) and in parts of Istria again became more widespread. But the beginnings go back further. For example, the Nobel Prize winner for literature Gerhart Hauptmann , who regularly visited the island of Hiddensee, commented on his novel The Island of the Great Mother , which he began there in 1916 : “I would probably never have written it if I hadn't seen the many beautiful, often completely naked female bodies on Hiddensee for years and watched the goings-on there. "

Since then, bathing naked has not only been a matter of lonely lakes and bays (again), but gradually began to become a factor of tourism, albeit a minimal one at first. In 1950 the first naturist holiday resort ( Montalivet-les-Bains ) opened its doors on the French Atlantic coast . The open social acceptance of naturism in clubs and on vacation began in Germany as early as the 1950s. This acceptance increased sharply from the 1960s and at the same time the number and size of nudist beaches and naturist campsites and holiday villages grew. For Club facilities has been aggressively advertised with the possibility of nudity.

Today naturism is an established branch of summer tourism in many European countries, especially France, Germany, Croatia, the Benelux countries and Scandinavia. In France alone there are more than a hundred commercial naturist holiday resorts. Naturism is also widespread in local recreation today; the number of possibilities for nude bathing on lakes, rivers and beaches is in the thousands in Germany alone.

But even in states and regions where public nudity is frowned upon due to social conventions in many places (such as in the United States of America ), there are partially closed areas where nudists can move freely.

Health and hygienic aspects

The nudist movement of the 20th century justified nudity with health arguments. As early as 1853, the Swiss life reformer Arnold Rikli recommended sunbathing and air bathing , which should develop its full effect without clothing.

Much of this is out of date from today's perspective. Against rickets , lack of vitamin D and other harmful consequences of lack of sun, poor nutrition and cramped living conditions, bathing and exercising in the fresh air with clothing are as effective as without. However, avoiding wet swimwear can protect against bladder infections.

Nudity is common in the sauna , at least in countries with a strong sauna tradition such as Central and Eastern European countries and Scandinavia. In public saunas, nudity is often even required, i.e. entering the sauna area in swimwear is not permitted. The reason for this is mostly due to hygienic aspects, as sweat and thus germs and bacteria can collect in swimwear. In addition, taking a sauna with bare skin is healthier and more effective because the hot air can circulate freely. The same applies to the cool-down phase following the sauna session.

An open approach to nudity has a positive effect on body image. The psychological effects of nudism, such as greater satisfaction with one's own body, emancipation from prevailing ideals of beauty and acceptance of one's own as well as others' flaws, can be seen as the main, positive effects.

Nude gardening

World Naked Gardening Day has been celebrated since 2005, since 2006 at the beginning of May. The day is not politically motivated and is intended to help people feel comfortable in their own skin.

In Germany, the Basic Law protects the property with the protection of the apartment and thus the right to be in any clothing - including naked - is associated with it. Even if z. B. the garden can be seen by others. In your own garden you can sunbathe naked, garden naked or follow other activities. This does not affect questions on the one hand of politeness and on the other hand of self-confidence and the courage to exercise this freedom and right.


Volleyball on a nudist beach on Senftenberger See near Cottbus (1982)

At the ancient Olympic Games in 776 BC. Chr. To 393 AD were from 720 BC. Most competitions were carried out naked by the athletes (so-called gymnastic disciplines). The athletes were only dressed in the horse races.

In all cultures and epochs, people swam and bathed naked, even if they were often separated according to sex. The naturism from the late 19th century has led to a rediscovery of nudity in sport; The most popular sports in naturism include swimming , volleyball , pétanque ( boules ), badminton , indiaca , table tennis , archery , sailing , surfing and hiking . In naturism, sports with little or no physical contact are usually preferred, and of course those sports in which clothing is not required for protection ( fencing ) or for other reasons ( judo ).

Nude parades, bike and running events

Numerous parades, sporting events and events take place with public nudity, without always necessarily following the philosophy of naturism or nudism. Because mostly the fun and the joy of being naked are in the foreground, for example at the annual World Naked Gardening Day . In addition, some of these events carry a political message or have the character of a protest. The Tiger Streak aims to draw attention to endangered species. The World Naked Bike Ride protests against the disadvantage of cyclists in road traffic. The normalization and increased acceptance of nudity in public spaces goes hand in hand with these events.

Naked Pumpkin Run
Naked Pumpkin Run 2010

The Naked Pumpkin Run is an annual Halloween naked run in various cities across the United States. It has been held in several major US cities since 1998. Participants in the run wear the typical symbol for Halloween, the hollowed-out pumpkin, which also gives the event its name.

International naturist run

In 2008, the idea of ​​an international naturist run was initiated by Peter Kaye for the first time as part of the nudist family meeting "Mee (h) r experience" on the Baltic Sea. After a two-year break, the run was revived by Franz Dirscherl. Under his direction, the International Naturist Run developed into the largest competitive running event of the naturist movement. This running event is a popular sport in which not only professional runners but also many amateur athletes take part. All participants run naked. Only running shoes, socks, hats and, for women, a sports bra are allowed. The following disciplines are held: 500-meter junior run, 5,000 and 10,000-meter running, as well as 5,000-meter walking and Nordic walking.

In 2008 69 participants started, in 2016 there were 208 participants. The runners come from Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Switzerland, Austria and even from India, Indonesia, Australia, America, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

Other nudist clubs have taken up the idea. The Naturist Camp Sonnensee / BffL Hannover eV is also organizing a naturist run as part of the 1st Sonnensee Games in 2019.

Participants in the Nakukymppi with bodypainting , 2014

The Nakukymppi is a playful running event in Päijät-Häme , Finland . It covers 10 km. It was operated by the Padasjoki municipality in the Päijät-Häme province. The event is annual and runs before the morning. The first nakukymppi was carried out in 2003. The motto of the event is "natural moving in nature".

According to the rules of nakukymppi, participants should only wear shoes, socks and headgear. The running takes place in the forest and afterwards the participants are offered a sauna. Participation is free. Each participant receives a diploma and the three fastest women and men receive prize money.

Tiger streak

The Tiger Streak is organized by the Zoological Society of London and held annually at the London Zoo . The nude run has the political claim to draw attention to the protection of species, especially for the Sumatra tiger . Many participants wear tiger masks or body paintings with tiger stripes. In addition to the benefit and competition aspects, the focus is on having fun for the participants.

Roskilde Naked Race

The annual Naked Race (Danish: nøgenløbet ), organized by the festival radio, has meanwhile established itself at the Roskilde music festival in Denmark . Around 30 of the 115,000 festival participants will take part in a nude run, in which the winners will receive a ticket for next year's festival. The race has now achieved cult status. The race is pure fun, the 2009 winner describes the experience with the words: The best thing about being naked is that you transcend boundaries (the best thing about being naked is to push your limits).

World Naked Bike Ride

The World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) is, as defined on the website, an international protest event with a fun character against the space requirements of automobile traffic and its dangers for other road users. In addition, the issue of exhaust gas pollution and dependence on fossil fuels is increasingly coming to the fore. The WNBR has been held every year in June since 2001. The WNBR is held in numerous cities around the world, with the largest "ride" taking place in London , the founding city being Zaragoza in Spain .

Value is placed on freedom and optionality. Cycling is not compulsory, and other non-motorized participants such as inline skaters, skateboarders and pedestrians are welcome, and nudity is not compulsory for participation. The motto of the dress code is "bare as you dare" (as naked as you dare).

The message is to be able to move freely and unrestrictedly in the street without restricting the rights of others and thus contributing to a positive, urban lifestyle. The aim is to create a fun and haunting atmosphere while driving, which draws the attention and imagination of the audience and the media and makes the experience personal for the drivers. Each participant should express themselves as they please. Body art, like bodypainting , are common forms of expression, but also costumes, art bikes, portable sound systems (such as sound systems, bull horns, and boomboxes), and musical instruments or other types of instruments. Pre- and post-ride parties have become events in themselves, often with music groups, DJs, body painting, temporary structures / installation art, political actions and catering.

Fremont Summer Solstice Parade
At the Fremont Summer Solstice Parade, 2012

In the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, a large nude parade is held annually at the summer solstice in June to celebrate the longest day of the year. The participants mainly move on bicycles , the so-called "Painted Cyclists". The parade is organized by the Fremont Arts Council.

Similar to the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR), the nudity of the participants is an element, but is not binding. Similarly to the WNBR, the participants have the freedom to take part on any companion, with the restriction that they may not be motorized. Often larger than life dolls, floats and street performers are part of the event. The parade is known for the high level of body painting - most of the participants are more or less painted. The focus here is on fun and artistic, creative expression, while the political claim - in contrast to the WNBR - is less pronounced. So that the parade is not misused for political or other messages, one of the basic rules is a ban on printed texts and logos. Instead, messages should be conveyed in a creative and artistic way.

The parade is accompanied by musicians, street theater and other street artists who give the whole thing the character of a folk festival. Before the start of the parade, the “Painted Cyclists” meet for a “Painting Party”, where they paint each other and give each other tips.


The Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada , many participants spend unclothed

At many music and art festivals like Melt , Fusion or the Roskilde Festival , nudity is a normal part. Participants bathe or dance naked, which is usually tolerated by the festival management. The Burning Man Festival is celebrated completely naked by several participants.

In addition to this spontaneous nudity, there are also festivals such as the Pashut Festival in Israel , which clearly see themselves as nudist events and expressly demand nudity.

Nudity and Political Protest

Naked women and men in Vancouver, Canada form the CND symbol of the peace movement (1970)
The right to public nudity is increasingly demanded: Nude protest on the streets of Portland (with Guy Fawkes masks )

A historical example of nudity as a means of protest is the legend of Lady Godiva . It is said of this 11th century Countess that she rode naked through Coventry , covered only by her long hair , to protest the high tax burden on the citizens.

In order to draw attention to himself and his demands, Friedensreich Hundertwasser stood naked between two unclothed women in his "naked speech for the right to the third skin" in 1967 in Munich. His second naked speech took place in Vienna in 1968.

The same applies to protest actions in which the demonstrators, individually or in large gatherings, seek public opinion. For example, demonstrations by the organization PETA against the wearing of fur are known , in which the participants, with their nakedness, create a relationship between bare skin and fur in addition to increased attention. Celebrities such as the German band No Angels are often available for this . The feminist group FEMEN from Ukraine gained international renown through public exposure.

There is also a tradition of nude protests in Africa, as historian Wolfgang Kraushaar points out. In 2002, for example , activists in Nigeria protested the negative consequences of the Chevron-Texaco oil demand and thus avoided arrest by the military.

In some cases, the boundaries between a protest action on the one hand and the artistic design are blurred in nude protests, as in various actions by the photographer Spencer Tunick or in public student protests against cuts in the education system. In 2004, the Italian actress Monica Bellucci protested against the ban on artificial insemination in Italy by showing herself naked on the cover of the Italian edition of Vanity Fair .

The Free The Nipple campaign, supported by celebrities such as Miley Cyrus , Jennifer Aniston , Rihanna and others, is committed to ensuring that women appear “topless” in public and show their nipples as is natural for men.


To demonstrate against the traditional bull hunt through the streets of Pamplona , activists of the animal rights organization PETA have been walking naked through the streets of Pamplona two days before the first bull race since 2002. In 2007, around 1500 people from 30 countries took part in the event.

Commercial Aspects

Nudity is often used as a means of drawing potential consumers' attention to a product or an advertising message. Naked people, often in connection with body painting , are used as advertising media or to distribute flyers at public events. In advertisements and on the covers of magazines and magazines, naked or scantily clad people are often depicted, even if the nudity is unrelated to the content; in Italy animal feed is even advertised with naked people.

On the one hand, the erotic effect should be used, especially with people of the opposite sex. On the other hand, nudity works independently because it is rare and not expected in public. With increasing nudity in the media and the public, however, the effect diminishes, as the population begins to get used to it, and nudity increasingly becomes normal and loses its signaling effect.

The Canadian television station Naked News , whose program consists of news and information broadcasts, only uses naked reporters and presenters. The broadcaster, which aims to convey serious content, wants to offer an additional attraction and position its own program against the competition. Under the titles Adam sucht Eva - Stranded in Paradies and Naked Attraction , RTL Group markets TV dating shows in which the candidates get to know each other naked.

While nudism existed in its beginnings as an alternative way of life to distinguish it from the bourgeoisie and the establishment, in the course of the 20th century an increasing commercialization of tourism began. In the meantime, tourist offers for naturists such as nudist camping, nudist resorts and holiday complexes or also special offers such as nudist cruises have become an economically important segment of the tourism industry, for which the trunk word nature tourism has also become established.

In Germany, the market for nude relaxation is estimated at around ten million holidaymakers annually. The leading travel destinations in this segment are currently France and Croatia. In France alone there are over 100 naturist holiday villages and campsites. Their annual turnover reaches a three-digit million amount.

Legal Aspects of Public Nudity

In Germany, as in most countries, public nudity is not expressly prohibited. “Nudity near the beach” is de facto legalized in Germany through court decisions. Elsewhere, nudity can be punished as an administrative offense (“ harassment of the general public ”, Section 118 OWiG , previously punished as “gross nonsense” ) with a fine of up to 1000 euros. Nudity in the great outdoors is a legal borderline case - in fact it depends on whether someone claims to be harassed and therefore demands prosecution, which is very rare.

The question of the right to nudity or the obligation to wear clothes through naked jogging attracted wider attention . Nudity in one's own apartment and on one's own property is generally permitted, even if the apartment can be seen, for example due to missing curtains.

According to the police laws of the federal states , however, nudity in public spaces is usually viewed as a violation of public order and punished with a so-called expulsion .

The legal regulation in Switzerland is as liberal with regard to the penal code as in Germany, after the relevant sections were relaxed in 1991. This criminal law reform was approved by the people in a referendum vote on May 17, 1992. According to Art. 194 and 198, only exhibitionism is a criminal offense. H. In addition to nudity, there must be clearly recognizable sexual acts or the intention to do so. Despite the basically liberal legal regulation, places where it is common to be naked are relatively rare - with the exception of saunas that have become quite popular in the meantime, which are usually textile-free in Switzerland and some, mostly unofficial bathing areas on rivers and lakes. In the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden , a people's decision issued a ban against naked hiking . The cantonal higher courts of Bern and Appenzell Ausserrhoden are of the opinion that the sanctioning of nudity as a violation of public order is the responsibility of the cantons and has hardly anything to do with criminal law: in other cantons there is no explicit mention as in Appenzell Innerrhoden , however, anyone can take legal action for causing public nuisance under civil law or police infraction rules. An appeal against a judgment of the Appenzell Ausserrhoden Higher Court, in which a fine of CHF 100 against a naked hiker for gross mischief was confirmed, has been lodged with the Federal Court on the grounds that it is not within the competence of the cantons to issue such a ban to enact. The Federal Supreme Court rejected the appeal, stipulating that such laws are fundamentally permissible.

Przystanek Woodstock Festival in Poland, 2014

In Poland , the nudity in public places is partly to public beaches, ex officio prosecuted if they of public officials on site or via video surveillance systems or even stationary speed measurement equipment is found without there being victims (harassed people). According to the Polish Code of Offenses ( kodeks wykroczeń ), it can be punished as a misdemeanor with arrest , a fine of up to PLN 1,500 (approx. € 340) or a reprimand. With women, “ topless ” is already punished as impropriety . Nevertheless, young, modern Poles try to create their own space and find places where they can be publicly naked. This is also understood as an active protest against social prudery and legal sanctioning of nudity.

In the English-speaking world in particular, public nudity is sometimes more persecuted. In many states in the USA , for example, it is forbidden to make the genitals publicly visible; for women, this also applies to the nipples. The only exceptions to this are nursing mothers. Since the ban on nudity extends to beach areas in many states, it is possible to cover genitals and nipples with so-called pasties for sunbathing . These are self-adhesive and allow penalties for public nudity to be avoided. They are mainly sold in the USA.

It is prohibited to cause public nuisance through sexual acts in public. Due to controversial court decisions on the freedom of art , sexual acts in public are also permitted in the theater and in the context of so-called action art .

Nudity as torture

image: Diego Velázquez (around 1632)

For the crucifixion , the condemned were usually undressed by the Romans, as shown by Michael Triegel in the picture Good Friday 1300 . Most depictions, however, do not show Jesus naked on the cross. With the taboo against nudity, the Vatican also had Michelangelo's painting The Crucifixion of Peter painted over and the penises of statues replaced with fig leaves.

Reports of nudity as part of torture are known from many countries. Among other things, Belarus, China, Turkey or from the time of the military dictatorship in Brazil and Chile under the dictator Augusto Pinochet .

Torture instruments such as the Judas cradle are known from history , in which the nudity was supposedly part of the humiliation of the tortured person.

Involuntary nudity is one of the so-called white torture , as its direct effect remains invisible, but permanently damages the psyche of the person concerned, in some cases it can even lead to suicide .

The public exposure of handcuffed or defenseless people was also abused to make someone compliant or to publicly humiliate them, comparable to a public pillory . The National Socialists used this type of torture to expose prisoners in the concentration camps.

Pictures from the Abu Ghuraib prison in Iraq sparked an international scandal , showing how American soldiers made fun of exposing prisoners naked. In the Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning case , it became known that the prisoner was being held under conditions that forced her to stay naked in her cell for seven hours at night. Then she had to stand naked in front of her cell.

Mental nudity

In the Viennese dialect , “naked” means “mental nudity” in the sense of ignorance or simplicity, as portrayed in Georg Danzer's song Jö schau .

With his legendary saying "I'm super naked" (the entrepreneur and former politician of the FPÖ ) Walter Meischberger signaled that he himself did not know what he would have received a commission of 700,000 euros for. The saying comes from the telephone tapping logs of Meischberger's telephone conversations with the former Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser , published in the course of research into the BUWOG affair , which were allowed to be printed by the Viennese weekly magazine Falter (as they have become part of three parliamentary questions and thus became public and can now also be viewed on the website of the Austrian Parliament).

This mental nudity was also described by Alfred Polgar in his theory of the Café Central : "There are Central guests who go mentally naked without their childish, innocent nakedness having to fear misinterpretation as shameless."



  • Nikolaus Himmelmann : Ideal Nudity in Greek Art . De Gruyter, Berlin, New York 1990. ISBN 3-11-012570-6
  • Oliver König: Nudity. Social standardization and morality. West German, Wiesbaden 1990, ISBN 3-531-12175-8
  • Kerstin Gernig (editor): nudity. Aesthetic stagings in a cultural comparison . Böhlau, Cologne, Weimar 2002. ISBN 978-3-412-17401-9
  • Wilhelm Hornbostel (Ed.): Naked. The aesthetics of nakedness . Prestel, Munich 2002. ISBN 3-7913-2635-X .
  • Manfred Scheuch : Naked. Cultural history of a taboo in the 20th century . 1st edition 2004. Christian Brandstätter, Vienna 2004, ISBN 978-3-85498-289-0 .
  • Tobias G. Natter (Ed.): The naked truth. Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka and other scandals . Prestel, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-7913-3284-8 .
  • Stefan Biösecker; Center for Medieval Studies (ed.): "And they realized that they were naked": Nudity in the Middle Ages. Results of an interdisciplinary conference of the Center for Medieval Studies at Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg, November 3rd & 4th, 2006 . University of Bamberg Press, Bamberg 2008, ISBN 978-3-923507-29-0 (= Bamberg interdisciplinary medieval studies , volume 1, (PDF; 50.6 MB) 460 pages).
  • Anita et al. Wolfgang Gramer: Schöner sexen: Instructions for taking off , mYm-Verlag Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-93750-208-3
  • Volkmar Ellmauthaler: Naked. The book. 24 experiments on the natural. Edition L, Vienna 2012, ISBN 978-3-902245-07-6 .

Web links

Commons : Nudity  - collection of pictures, videos, and audio files
Wikiquote: Nudity  - Quotes
Wiktionary: naked  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: nudity  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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  126. See: Valech Commission
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